As summer is coming to an end, some parents are faced with the stressful decision whether to send their children to school or keep them home to learn virtually. For many parents, they do not have the option because of their need to work outside the home. For some with multi-children households, one child’s school might not offer virtual learning options. Regardless of the circumstances, the decision between virtual learning and in-person learning can be surrounded with anxiety and uncertainty.
To prioritize children’s mental health in the decision-making process, communication between parents and their children is key. Everyone, regardless of age, needs outlets to process stress and anxiety. As Dr. Laura Vogel, Director of Momentous Institute’s Therapeutic Services puts it, “Many manage challenges or difficulties through talking to others.” For children, this may not look like a sit-down conversation to discuss their fears. Instead, children may interact verbally through answering open-ended questions, drawing, writing or texting. Dr. Vogel also encourages parents not to give up when talking with their children even when it feels like “you’re having the same conversation over and over. Again, this is their way of managing their anxiety…be open to having these repeated conversations.”
For parents who choose to send their children back to school, Dr. Vogel encourages parents to “Prepare students for the fact that school will look different. Going back to school will involve new rules, masks and eating locations.” A helpful tool will be to practice wearing masks at home and in public places so the child can get used to wearing this for extended periods of time. Practice self-regulation strategies now like deep breathing or writing down truths they can repeat when they experience fear. Practicing in a safe space can ensure that they are prepared if they become anxious.
For parents who will be leading virtual learning with their children at home, Momentous Institute encourages parents to keep open ears to their children’s thoughts about this new dynamic, amongst other strategies. Possible questions that could be asked of their children include: “What do you like so far about schooling at home? If you could change one thing about school at home, what would it be? What is your favorite part?”
Most important of all, when making decisions, parents should think through their child’s needs. Parents know their child better than anyone. To prioritize mental health in major decisions, parents must trust their instincts, stay informed and reach out for help when needed. Momentous Institute stands ready to walk with parents through these decisions so that their children can reach their full potential regardless of education format.